25.01.2020 – 22.02.2020
Art & Customer Service
by Timon Karl Kaleyta
I had been looking for a new hair salon for the whole week. The one I had used so far had ceased operations from one day to the next, a catastrophe, and now I was looking for a new one. Without success. From morning to night, I had wandered the street of the city and had closely looked at every salon that I came across accidentally. Of course I didn’t go in and enquire, no, I just stepped really close to the shop, stood directly in front of the shop window, placed my hands above my eyes to keep the light away so that I could carefully examine everything inside in peace.
Usually I would stand there for a few minutes, trying to form an opinion. Did the salon inspire confidence? Was it pleasantly furnished? Was it customer-friendly? Did somebody receive service at the moment? So could I imagine myself as a future paying customer there? I asked myself all this, over and over again; questions concerning customer service.
But it was the same every time, I never gained enough confidence during my inspection to actually set foot into a salon, there was always something that put me off at the last moment. It was like a curse, and the more salons I went to, and the longer and the more stubbornly I stared into the salons, the more I abandoned all hope of ever finding another salon, indeed, of ever finding happiness again.
I was already toying with the idea of leaving the city again, turning my back on it, when I suddenly – actually, it was basically just a final flash in the corner of my eye – I discovered a small shop at the end of a narrow descending lane that looked completely nondescript from the outside. On the façade – I hardly believed my eyes – I really saw the blue, white and red diagonal stripes of the famous barber’s pole dancing upwards – up to then, I had only seen this sign for trustworthy hairdressing salons during my trips to the New World. Here in Germany, I had never before discovered it.
With its hypnotic movements, the sign drew me towards the shop as if by magic, and when I finally pressed my nose against the shop window and looked inside, as usual, this time it took just a few moments until I realised that I was dealing with one of the best hair salons in the city, if not the best in the whole country. With my eyes wide open, I entered the salon. It was a sensation: wherever I looked, every wall was covered from top to bottom with diplomas and awards, certificates and additional qualifications, issued and signed by the most renowned institutions on the planet. I read Viddal Sassoon, Wella, Balmain, L´Oreal, the Chamber of Trade, and many many more. I could hardly believe my luck, this salon was unquestionably run by professionals.
For a moment I even believed that I had landed in an art museum, because everything was so neatly framed and beautifully displayed. But the difference was, an artist could make up whatever he wanted, he could have, just for fun and to fool us, issued the craziest diplomas and certificates to himself and simply declare them as art – but what I saw there was much more valuable than art, these were real, certified documents, they testified to everybody entering this space that everything would be done properly here. This was much better than any art I know of!
“Tell me, my dear,” I asked the beautiful coiffeuse who quickly approached me with a smile and took my coat, while I continued to look at the certificates, “are these really all your awards and accolades? Are they all real? It must be close to a thousand diplomas!”
“To be sure,” the coiffeuse replied, “I have devoted my entire life to the art of haircutting. You see, I simply love making my customers happy – it is the most wonderful profession in the world. A life for the customer. For my customers.”
“For me, you are an artist! A true customer-artist, if I may say so.”
“You flatter me,” the coiffeuse said, beaming at me, “but you see, in truth, art is based on customer service. That’s the secret. That’s the whole secret.”
“Art is based on customer service.” I pondered what she had said. I mumbled the phrase to myself several times over. That was genius, I thought, what a phrase. Why had nobody thought of this before? No artist, no curator, no professor had ever thought of that. Of course, art isn’t based on skill or ability, no, it is based on customer service, and this was a customer art temple par excellence. A temple of fine arts, a palacio de bellas artes, and the client is its king.
“I trust you” I said finally and sat down on one of the chairs, leant back, and immediately the coiffeuse started to wash my hair.
“Please tell me if it’s too hot.”